Large butterfly with a wingspan measuring up to 4-1/2 inches. The upperside of the wings is black, with a postmedian yellow band; the underside is dark brownish-black, with dull red spots along the margin on the hindwing. The body has red spots and a lateral red stripe on the abdomen. The hindwings do not have tails. The large, dark brown to dull black caterpillar is covered with short, fleshy orange projections with black tips and has a yellow osmeterium. The chrysalis is brown or green.
North America, West Indies, Central America, South America
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Locally rare in North Florida March - Late November; locally rare all year in Central Florida; locally uncommon all year in South Florida; locally rare all year in the Keys. Caterpillars are present throughout the growing season.
Edges of open woodlands, abandoned fields and disturbed areas; beaches in the Keys.
Three or more broods per year. The large, spherical, orange-brown eggs are laid in clusters of 10 to 14 on the exposed new stems or growing tips of vines.
Young caterpillars live and feed together. They may crawl along the ground in search of food if they defoliate a host plant. Adults are very fast fliers; they beat their wings even when nectaring.
Native larval host plants include Marsh's dutchman's-pipe (Aristolochia pentandra) and Virginia-snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria). Nonnative larval host plants include dutchman's-pipe (Aristolochia maxima), elegant dutchman's-pipe (Aristolochia elegans) and gaping dutchman's-pipe (Aristolochia ringens). Adults nectar on the native wild-sage (Lantana involucrata), the nonnative shrubverbena (Lanana camara), and other species of Lantana, most of which have a limited distribution and some of which are endangered. They occasionally nectar on the native coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), the nonnative Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and the nonnative, cultivated star-cluster (Pentas lancolata).
Gann, G.D., M.E. Abdo, J.W. Gann, G.D. Gann, Sr., S.W.
Woodmansee, K.A. Bradley, E. Grahl and K.N. Hines. 2005-2016. Natives For Your Neighborhood. http://www.regionalconservation.org.
The Institute for Regional Conservation. Delray Beach, Florida USA.